The Scotsman – Durufle/Bingham at St Cuthbert’s – 4 Stars – 2010

This review was originally published on The Scotsman’s Website on Sunday, 21 November 2010.

THIS Maurice Durufle and Judith Bingham double bill provided another opportunity to hear Bingham’s stunning Shadow Aspect, premiered by the ERCU last year. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson, this work for choir, baritone, organ and timpani beautifully evokes. the atmosphere of the more sinister side of Edinburgh.

The fresh voices of the ERCU’s youth offshoot, the Edinburgh Youth Choir, added a child-like innocence to some of the passages, making an even greater contrast with baritone James Birchall’s chilling descriptions, John Kitchen’s foggy rumblings on organ and the ominous murmuring of Philip Hague’s timpani. All the forces united for a thrilling climax under the baton of conductor Michael Bawtree.

It was Hague’s performance last year that inspired Bingham to write him a new piece for solo timpani, Annunciation III.

Durufle’s Requiem for choir, organ, baritone and mezzo-soprano is incredibly sumptuous. Even the tranquil Sanctus is underpinned by a beguiling rippling undercurrent on the organ, played by Morley Whitehead. Mezzo Beth Mackay’s brief but beautifully articulated Pie Jesu was also a highlight. The choir’s interpretation was gutsy and enthusiastic if somewhat lacking in crispness when it came to Latin diction, fraying the edges of phrases. Their unaccompanied performance of Durufle’s Four Motets on Gregorian Themes was more confident while Kitchen’s performance of the composer’s Choral Variations on Veni Creator for organ, also based on Gregorian chants, was utterly magnificent.

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